Saint Petersburg Travel Guide

Saint Petersburg Overview

Designed by Peter the Great and built by Italians, St Petersburg, founded in 1703 as the “window to the West”, is a mesmerizing blend of baroque and neoclassical architecture lining a network of picturesque canals and waterways. Devoid of the stereotyped redbrick edifices of Moscow, St Petersburg boasts a distinct European essence, rich in history and proud of a sophistication rarely encountered across Russia. Whilst admiring the architectural feats is high on the agenda, this is also a city for the 21st century, where contemporary galleries, pioneering warehouse clubs and fine dining command as much importance as Rossi’s palaces and the operas of Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.

With galleries, museums, palaces, public squares and historic monuments all on offer, St Petersburg is overwhelmed with things to see and do and perhaps the best way to explore the city is to go by district. At the heart of everything is The Fontanka, the historical centre squeezed between the River Neva and looping River Fontanka. On the opposite side of the Neva is Vasilevsky Island, the city waterfront, with the Peter and Paul Fortress and peaceful Kirov Islands lying directly east across Bolshoy Prospekt. East of The Fontanka, the neighbourhoods of Liteyny, Smolny and Vladimirskaya blend from residential to bohemian and more historical zones. Each of St Petersburg’s neighborhoods have their own individual character and significance and crossing the connecting bridges is a great part of getting a true feel for the city.
Bolstered by its close proximity to Europe, St Petersburg is far easier to access than most would imagine and a range of bus, train and ferry services depart daily for destinations including Helsinki, Kiev, Riga, Stockholm and Tallinn. The city is also an important stop on the Trans Siberian Railway that’s runs through Russia and Mongolia on its way to Beijing. One thing to take into consideration when planning a trip is the extreme weather conditions, with winter days able to drop to -20°C and summer temperatures often reaching 30°C. Despite the extremities, with cozy Christmas markets springing up in winter and the White Night celebrations of summer, this is still a city that can be visited at anytime of the year.

Things to do in Saint Petersburg

St Petersburg Historical Sights - Public squares, cathedrals, palaces and monuments, St Petersburg is brimming with a splendid collection of differing sights. Start the day at Dvortsovaya Ploshchad (Palace Square) and check out the General Staff Building, Alexander Column and WinterPalace. For more architectural wonder, pass by the Church of the Saviour on Blood and St Isaacs Cathedral. St Petersburg is a city of palaces and time should be set aside to see at least one of Yusupov Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress and Pavlovsk Palace.

St Petersburg Museums & Galleries
Ana Akhmatova Museum - Small yet rewarding museum housed in the former home of the great St Petersburg raconteur.
Cruiser Aurora -The real thing or an exquisite replica? Either way this former warship is a fine museum celebrating its role in various battles.
Hermitage Museum - In the same complex as the WinterPalace are exhibitions ranging from works by Rembrandt to medieval mummies found in Siberia.
Kunstkamera - Often repulsive, yet somehow appealing exhibitions of the human anatomy amassed by Peter the Great.
Russian Museum - The biggest collection of Russian art spanning from medieval times through to contemporary works.
St Petersburg Parks - Coming at somewhat of a surprise to many, St Petersburg is home to some wonderful public parks that sit north of the River Neva. Originally playgrounds for 18thC aristocracy the parks were eventually opened to the masses during the 20thC. The pick of the bunch is YelaginIsland, a lazy chestnut tree filled park and a popular spot for sunsets over the Gulf of Finland. For more action head to KrestovskyIsland, home to a yacht club, tennis centre and huge stadium. Closer to the centre, Peter the GreatsSummerGarden and TauridaGardens both offer an oasis of calm following a day of sightseeing.
St Petersburg Festivals
Musical Spring in St Petersburg - Series of classical music performances held throughout April at various city theatres.
White Nights - Enjoy the delights of St Petersburg whilst being bathed in sunlight 24-hours a day. The phenomenon is caused by the sun never dropping below the horizon in the height of summer.
Beer Festival - Held in mid-June at the Peter and Paul Fortress, this is one of the summer’s biggest events.
Festival-festivaley - The Festival of Festivals is a non-competitive celebration of film held at the end of June.
Early Music Festival - October welcomes a celebration of Middle Age, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical music.
St Petersburg Nightlife - From the ballet to the opera and traditional drinking dens to mega clubs, St Petersburg has a diverse nightlife and fit’s the bill of having something for everyone. For partygoers, the highest concentration of bars and clubs is found in the city centre, with bars staying open until around midnight and clubs continuing on to the early hours. St Petersburg Times is a good source of entertainment advice.
Bars in St Petersburg
Bar Fidel - Cuban and Castro themed bar on Nevsky Prospekt grooving to Ska, Latin and Balkan beats.
Fish Fabrique - Underground café at Pushkinskaya 10, fashionable for its cheap food and cult movie screenings. Open til 6am.
James Cook Pub & Cafe - Homesick travelers will be happy to stumble across this classic pub for a pint or two.
Stray Dog Cafe - This bohemian café-bar is popular for poetry readings, live music and laidback vibe.
Clubs in St Petersburg
Clubio - Easygoing café by day and boisterous theme-events club by night.
Money Honey - Raucous student bar set in a basement on Nevsky Prospekt.
Red Club - Warehouse club by Moscow Station spinning everything from house to R&B, folk to soul.
Rossi’s Club - Party bar and karaoke club, where beer drinking and good looking girls are the norm 7 days a week.
Theatres in St Petersburg
Aleksandrinsky Theatre - Come here for performances of SwanLake and the Nutcracker by the St Petersburg Theatre of Classical Ballet.
Kannon Dance - Performances by local modern dance groups and the stage for the Open Look summer festival.
Mariinsky Theatre - The finest opera performances in town. Book in advance to avoid missing out.

Hotels in Saint Petersburg


Budget Hotels St Petersburg
Gogol Mogol Hostel - Recently opened hostel offering 12 beds in a quiet, residential neighborhood. Tel (7) 921 186 3036.
Hostel Pilau - Friendly, centrally located hostel, 5 minutes walk from Nevskiy Prospect. Tel (7) 812 572 1075.
Soul Kitchen Hostel - Busy hostel with a great atmosphere and close to the nightlife zone.
Midrange Hotels St Petersburg
5th Corner Hotel - Contemporary hotel at affordable prices in the flourishing Five Corners district. Tel (7) 812 380 8181.
Arbat Nord - Decent sized and elegantly furnished rooms on a quiet street just off Chernyshevskaya metro stop. Tel (7) 812 703 1899.
Nevsky Forum Hotel - Inviting hotel on Nevsky Prospekt with shops, cafés, restaurants and the main train station right on the doorstep. Tel (7) 812 333 0222.
Luxury Hotels St Petersburg
Angleterre Hotel - Swanky number offering luxury amenities at cheaper rates than the adjacent Astoria. Tel (7) 812 494 5666.
Astoria Hotel - Luxury Art-Nouveau hotel capturing the spirit Russian elegance. The lobby bar is a good spot for afternoon tea. Tel (7) 812 334 1650.
Corinthia Nevsky Palace Hotel - 5-star hotel offering large, luxury rooms to a predominantly executive clientele. Tel (7) 812 380 2001.

Saint Petersburg Weather

Saint Petersburg Travel Resources



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This page was last modified on 19 Oct 2011 by Natasha